What is the Best Material for a Flat Roof?

The best material for a flat roof includes EPDM, TPO, PVC, Built-Up Roofing (BUR), and Modified Bitumen, each offering unique benefits. Understanding their features and potential drawbacks is essential for making an informed decision. Selecting the best material for a flat roof involves considering durability, cost-effectiveness, energy efficiency, and maintenance requirements.

Identifying the best roofing material for your needs is key to maximizing the lifespan and performance of your flat roof. However, with the variety of roofing materials available in the market, the selection process can feel overwhelming. It involves not only looking at the roof installation cost but also considering the long-term maintenance expenses, durability, and how well the material will withstand your local climate.

This guide will explore the best material for a flat roof, helping you understand their pros and cons to ensure you make the right decision.

What is the Best Material for a Flat Roof?

Choosing the best material for a flat roof involves examining the unique benefits each material brings. In the following sections, we will explore the top five flat roof materials, offering insights into their durability, cost-effectiveness, and suitability for various conditions.

The Five Best Flat Roof Materials

When it comes to flat roofs, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The best choice depends on several factors such as the climate, the building’s structure, usage, and the budget at hand.

Let us explore the five best flat roof materials: EPDM, TPO, PVC, Built-up Roofing (BUR), and Modified Bitumen, each with unique attributes and advantages that make them suitable for different types of properties.

Here are the five best flat roof materials:


Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer, commonly known as EPDM, is a highly durable synthetic rubber roofing membrane that has become a popular choice for both residential and commercial flat roofs. It’s typically available in black or white and comes in a wide range of widths, usually ranging from 7.5 to fifty feet, and thicknesses from 45 to 90 mils. Its flexibility allows it to adapt to seasonal temperature variations, making it suitable for diverse climates.

One of the main advantages of EPDM is its impressive lifespan. With proper installation and regular maintenance, an EPDM roof can last for up to 50 years, providing a great return on investment. It’s also highly resistant to weathering, including UV radiation, which helps it maintain its structural integrity over time. Even in extreme weather conditions, EPDM roofs are known to hold up well, with minimal maintenance needs.

Furthermore, the installation process of an EPDM roof is relatively straightforward, which can result in lower labor costs compared to other roofing materials. The sheets are simply rolled out onto the roof surface and then adhered using either liquid adhesives or specially formulated tape. This simplicity, combined with its durability and longevity, makes EPDM a cost-effective option for many property owners considering a flat roof.

EPDM Pros:

  • Highly durable, and can withstand harsh weather conditions.
  • Long lifespan, can last up to 50 years with proper maintenance.
  • Eco-friendly, as it can be recycled at the end of its lifespan.
  • Resistant to UV radiation, reducing heat absorption and improving energy efficiency.

EPDM Cons:

  • Can be punctured easily, especially by sharp objects.
  • While it’s resistant to UV radiation, it can absorb heat, potentially increasing cooling costs unless coated with a reflective surface.
  • Requires professional installation for optimal performance.


Thermoplastic Olefin, or TPO, is a single-ply roofing membrane that has gained popularity in recent years due to its superior energy efficiency and environmentally friendly attributes. It’s typically a blend of polypropylene and ethylene-propylene rubber, creating a membrane that is flexible, durable, and resistant to a variety of environmental conditions. TPO roofing is usually white, which helps it reflect solar radiation, reducing the need for air conditioning and lowering energy costs.

TPO’s energy efficiency is one of its standout features. Its highly reflective surface significantly reduces heat gain, making it an excellent choice for buildings located in warmer climates. This energy-saving feature not only helps to lower utility bills but also reduces the carbon footprint of the building, making TPO a green choice for eco-conscious property owners.

TPO is also well-regarded for its ease of installation and recyclability. It comes in large sheets, which means fewer seams and less potential for leaks. The sheets are heat-welded together, creating a bond that’s stronger than the material itself. At the end of its service life, TPO is 100% recyclable, further enhancing its appeal as an environmentally responsible roofing option.

TPO Pros:

  • Highly energy efficient due to its reflective surface.
  • Resistant to mold, dirt accumulation, and tears.
  • Can be fully recycled, making it an eco-friendly choice.

TPO Cons:

  • The lifespan of TPO roofs is typically shorter than other options, typically around 15 to 20 years.
  • It’s a relatively new product in the roofing industry, so formulations can vary between manufacturers.
  • Repairs can be more complex due to its thermoplastic nature.


Polyvinyl Chloride, better known as PVC, is a synthetic roofing material that has gained popularity for flat and low-slope roofs. Its durability, fire resistance, and high wind uplift ratings make it an excellent choice for commercial buildings and structures in areas with harsh weather conditions. PVC roofing is available in a variety of thicknesses and colors, providing flexibility in terms of aesthetics and strength. Plus, its light color reflects sunlight, helping to reduce heat absorption and thus lower energy costs during the summer months.

A distinct advantage of PVC roofing is its ability to resist various chemicals. For buildings or factories where chemical discharge might occur, PVC can withstand such exposures without deteriorating. Additionally, PVC roofs are resistant to moisture, reducing the risk of mold growth and water damage. Its seams are heat-welded, creating a watertight bond that’s stronger than the material itself, offering further protection against leaks.

However, while PVC offers a plethora of benefits, it’s also important to consider potential drawbacks. For instance, while PVC is highly durable, it can become brittle and crack in extremely cold temperatures. Its installation requires skilled professionals due to the complexities of heat-welding the seams. It also tends to be more expensive than other flat roofing options. But, despite these factors, its long lifespan of up to 30 years, coupled with its resistance to fire, wind, chemicals, and impact, make it a cost-effective investment in the long run.

PVC Pros:

  • Highly durable and resistant to fire, chemicals, and impacts.
  • Excellent lifespan of up to 30 years.
  • A reflective white surface improves energy efficiency by reducing heat absorption.

PVC Cons:

  • Can be more expensive to install compared to other materials.
  • May become brittle over time, especially in very cold climates.
  • Repairs require heat welding, which requires professional expertise.

Built-up Roofing (BUR)

Built-up Roofing, commonly known as BUR, is a tried and true roofing method that has been used for over a century. It consists of alternating layers of reinforcing fabric and bitumen, culminating in a final layer of aggregate, such as stone or gravel. This multi-layered approach provides exceptional durability and water-resistant properties, making it an excellent choice for flat or low-slope roofs on both residential and commercial buildings.

One of the most significant advantages of BUR is its ability to provide a continuous sealed surface. Because it is applied in a continuous manner, there are fewer seams and places where leaks can form, making it an exceptionally waterproof option. This seamless design also makes it resistant to wind, hail, and other extreme weather conditions. Plus, the top layer of gravel or stone provides excellent UV protection, enhancing the roof’s lifespan and energy efficiency.

However, like any roofing material, BUR also has its drawbacks. The installation process is labor-intensive, time-consuming, and requires experienced professionals, which can contribute to higher initial costs. Additionally, the use of heavy equipment during installation may not be suitable for all buildings. It’s also worth noting that BUR roofing requires regular maintenance to ensure its longevity and performance. Despite these considerations, the robustness, longevity, and excellent water resistance of BUR make it a popular choice among commercial property owners.

BUR Pros:

  • Excellent durability and water resistance due to multi-layer structure.
  • Provides good insulation, reducing energy costs.
  • The gravel surface can be walked on without causing damage.

BUR Cons:

  • The installation process is labor-intensive and time-consuming.
  • Can be costly to install due to the multiple layers.
  • Not as flexible as other options, which can lead to cracking in colder temperatures.

Modified Bitumen

Modified Bitumen is a type of roofing material that is specifically designed to cope with harsh and extreme weather conditions. Its primary component is asphalt, which is enhanced with rubber or plastic polymers to improve flexibility and performance. This modification process results in a high-performance, multilayer roof system that combines the strength of traditional asphalt with modern roofing innovations. Furthermore, it is available in a variety of installation methods, including torch-applied, self-adhesive, and cold-adhesive, catering to different preferences and project requirements.

The most noteworthy feature of a modified bitumen roof is its excellent durability. It can withstand heavy foot traffic, harsh weather conditions, and even minor physical impacts without showing signs of damage. This makes it an ideal choice for commercial buildings or residential properties where the roof serves as an additional living or utility space. Its multi-layer structure offers a significant advantage in terms of water resistance, reducing the risk of leaks and water damage. The top surface is usually finished with a reflective coating to enhance the roof’s energy efficiency by reducing heat absorption.

Despite its many advantages, it’s important to note that a modified bitumen roof requires professional installation to ensure optimal performance and longevity. The installation process can be complex, especially for torch-applied systems that require a high level of skill and safety precautions. Furthermore, like any roofing system, it requires regular maintenance to keep it in optimal condition. However, with the proper care and attention, a modified bitumen roof can last for up to 20 years or more, providing a reliable, long-term roofing solution for your property. Ventura Roofing Co’s team of experienced professionals is well-versed in installing and maintaining modified bitumen roofs, ensuring that you get the most out of your investment.

Modified Bitumen Pros:

  • Excellent durability and resistance to tears.
  • Reflective surface provides good energy efficiency.
  • Can withstand heavy foot traffic, making it suitable for roofs with regular access.

Modified Bitumen Cons:

  • The installation process can be complex and requires professional expertise.
  • Although durable, it has a shorter lifespan than materials like EPDM.
  • Requires regular maintenance to keep it in optimal condition.


What is the longest-lasting flat roof?

The longest-lasting flat roof is often considered Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM), also known as rubber roofing. With proper care and maintenance, it can last up to 50 years, providing a durable and cost-effective roofing solution for commercial properties.

What is the best type of flat roofing?

The best type of flat roofing depends on individual requirements, including budget, climate, and building usage. However, EPDM, TPO, PVC, Built-up Roofing (BUR), and Modified Bitumen are all considered top choices due to their durability, weather resistance, and longevity.

What material do you use on a flat roof?

The materials you can use for flat roofs include EPDM (rubber), TPO, PVC, Modified Bitumen, and Built-up Roofing (BUR). The selection of material largely depends on the specific needs and preferences of the property owner, such as durability, maintenance, cost, and environmental impact.

What is the best flat roof to walk on?

The best flat roof to walk on is built-up roofing (BUR) and modified bitumen. They are designed to withstand foot traffic, which makes them suitable for buildings where roof access is necessary. They resist damage and provide a stable surface for walking.

Hire a Flat Roof Installation Professional

If you’re considering installing a flat roof, turn to the professionals at Ventura Roofing Co. Our team of experienced roofers will guide you in choosing the best material for your needs, ensuring a high-quality installation that stands the test of time. With our top-notch customer service and excellent workmanship, we guarantee you’ll be satisfied with the results. Contact us today to start your journey toward a durable, high-performing flat roof.


Selecting the best material for your flat roof is a crucial decision that can significantly impact the roof’s lifespan, durability, and maintenance requirements. By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of different materials, you can make an informed decision that best suits your needs, budget, and local climate. Remember, a well-chosen flat roof is not just a protective cover for your property, but also an investment towards its value and sustainability.